World Cup One-Hit Wonders: Blanco, the Mexican Juggler of France 1998

When you manage to give your name to a specific trick, it means you have made it to the history of football. Raise your hands, those of you who don’t remember the cuauhtéminha, a feat that consists in dashing past your opponents with the ball tied between your feet.

This is what Cuauhtémoc Blanco showed during the 1998 World Cup in France. It doesn’t matter that his Mexico’s run ended in the Round of 16 against Jurgen Klinsmann and Oliver Bierhoff’s Germany. With that name sounding like an Aztec emperor, and that trick with the ball between his feet, Blanco earned a place in the memory of all football fans.

He collected 122 caps and scored 39 goals with the Tricolores, during a career mostly spent at home, except for a short stint with Valladolid in Spain, between 2000 and 2002. Together with Luis Hernández, Blanco formed a stunning attacking line for Mexico. He is the only Mexican to have scored in three different World Cup editions (1998, 2002, and 2010), and the third oldest player to have ever scored in a world championship – at 37 years and 5 months – behind Sweden’s Gunnar Gren, and all-time record-man Roger Milla from Cameroon.

Cuauhtémoc Blanco was a talented player, probably capable of making a good career even in Europe. If only he had a different personality. Blanco did like life outside the pitch, his excesses often overshadowing his genius. Still, that didn’t prevent him from leaving an indelible trace during France 1998. Together with Zinedine Zidane’s double in the Final, and Ronaldo’s blank face that same night, people will always remember that guy who used to dribble his opponents with the ball between his feet.

Now, if truth be told, the cuauhtéminha was an illegal move. But no referee ever had the courage to disallow such an original trick. Of course, who would have liked to do that?